| NEWS of the Day - March 25, 2012
|on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From the L.A. Daily News
Panga that landed at El Segundo had 14 deported felons aboard
A boatload of smuggled illegal immigrants who landed on an El Segundo beach this week included an array of felons previously deported from the United States for offenses ranging from drug possession to murder, authorities said Friday.
The passengers braved a night aboard a small fishing boat on rough water in darkness, traveling in the early hours of Wednesday morning beyond Coronado and Catalina islands as they tried to slip undetected from Tijuana to Southern California, states a court affidavit.
Most had intended to pay up to $8,500 to smugglers to bring them to Los Angeles. The affidavit, filed by a sheriff's deputy in U.S. District Court, indicated the boat's pilot and navigators became lost at sea, intending to land in Long Beach or San Pedro.
Instead, they came ashore in front of the NRG power plant in El Segundo, where witnesses spotted them and facility fences prevented them from climbing onto Vista del Mar. Police officers quickly corralled them.
On board the boat were 15 Mexican nationals, including a 14-year-old boy, three Mexican women, one male Salvadoran and one Chinese woman, authorities said.
Seven of the passengers told federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Border Patrol agents that they began their voyage in Mexico late Tuesday after arranging with smugglers to take them by sea to the United States.
Human cargo and drug smugglers have recently increased their efforts to enter California from the Pacific to avoid tougher border security on land. Pangas have come ashore locally in Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes and San Pedro.
In interviews with investigators after their arrests, passengers described how they made their way to El Segundo. Investigators used the information to support smuggling charges against the boat captain and his two navigators on Friday.
One passenger, a man from Guadalajara, told federal agents that his uncle had arranged to pay $7,000 to smugglers to take him to California, plus 800 pesos ($62) for a life vest.
He waited at a hotel in Tijuana. A taxi picked him up Tuesday night and dropped him at a park near Ensenada Harbor, where a large Mexican flag flies.
Two other people told investigators they also met at the park near the large flag. A man who arranged with a smuggler named Carlos to pay $8,000 once he arrived at his destination stayed with family in Tijuana, taking a bus and a cab to the meeting spot.
An Ensenada woman told investigators her husband in Palmdale agreed to pay a smuggler $7,000, plus 1,000 pesos ($78) for the fuel and life jacket.
They boarded a fishing boat about 7:30 p.m. and chugged out to sea. They met a panga - a small fishing vessel with an outboard motor - about 30 minutes into the journey. The illegal immigrants climbed aboard.
The passengers told investigators the driver traveled fast on the choppy ocean, making them fear for their lives.
On board, a man later identified as 54-year-old Esteban Sanchez-Hernandez drove. Sometimes referred to as "capitan" and "comandante," Sanchez later admitted to investigators that he piloted the small craft, the affidavit said.
"Sanchez described himself as `poor' and stated he was a fisherman from Nayarit who needed the money," the affidavit said. "Sanchez said he was approached by a smuggler near La Pinita Beach in Nayarit and told he can make money smuggling people in a boat to the United States."
The smuggler known as "La Leche" instructed Sanchez to go to Ensenada to meet "El Chilango," a fat man about 30 years old. El Chilango provided Sanchez with a GPS device and told him he would be paid $200 a passenger to captain a panga into California.
El Chilango advised him to take a route to the west of Catalina Island and, once he passed it, to head straight for the mainland.
Sanchez left Ensenada in the panga at 8 p.m., met another panga at sea to load 18 to 20 gas containers on board, and then met a larger boat offshore to pick up his passengers.
They were due to arrive in Los Angeles at 3 or 4 a.m.
Julio Cesar Romero-Zamora, 30, who lives with his wife and four children in Tijuana, told agents he was a taxi driver born in Mazatlan.
A smuggler, Romero said, offered him a half-price deal on a $6,000 smuggling fee to serve as the group's "foot guide."
"He was to keep in telephone contact with an unknown smuggler in Mexico and once the panga landed he was to guide them to a waiting Ford Expedition," the affidavit said.
Miguel Angel Guzman-Torres, 36, told investigators that a smuggler in Nayarit also offered him a discount on his fee if he helped on the journey. A fisherman, Guzman's job was to help on board, operating the GPS and assisting with refueling.
Guzman told investigators the boat passed three miles west of Coronado Island at 10 p.m. Tuesday and two miles west of Catalina Island at 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Somebody would be waiting for them when they arrived.
But something went wrong.
On the panga, passengers listened as Romero talked on a radio, trying to arrange a landing spot with someone on the beach. A passenger told agents that Sanchez, the captain, appeared to be lost.
A passenger, the report said, heard someone at the back of the boat say they had missed their landing spot.
"He heard a radio conversation with someone onshore asking where they were because he could not see them," the affidavit said.
The panga came ashore on the beach near the El Segundo power plant at 6:45 a.m.
After the passengers hit the sand, Sanchez and Guzman tried to push the boat away from the beach and into the water. Romero directed passengers where to go.
But witnesses onshore had seen them and called 911.
El Segundo Officer Park McAllister was first to arrive. Fifteen to 20 people ran from him in different directions. He ordered them in English and Spanish to stop, but most continued to flee. He detained four and waited for El Segundo and Manhattan Beach police officers to surround the beach.
Officers found several boat passengers hiding under large rocks along the breakwall. Police do not believe anyone escaped. Twenty people were arrested.
Once they were provided blankets and food at the El Segundo police station, the immigrants were taken to an immigration processing center in San Clemente.
They were fingerprinted, interviewed and determined to be undocumented, the affidavit said.
Sanchez, Romero and Guzman confessed to smuggling the aliens, the document said. Sanchez admitted to being the captain, Romero said he was responsible for radio communications and Guzman said he was the navigator.
Romero carried a heavy white bag containing clothes, personal hygiene items and two cellphones kept dry inside a condom.
On the beach, investigators found about 20 gas cans, 15 life vests, several boxes of spark plugs and a Ritchie Explorer Compass purchased in Tijuana. A bag of chips and a package of crackers were left behind on the boat.
On Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged Sanchez, Romero and Guzman with conspiracy to bring illegal immigrants to the United States.
Fourteen of the 20 people aboard the panga were determined to have criminal records that resulted in their deportation from the United States, El Segundo police Lt. Ray Garcia said.
Their crimes included burglary, robbery, spousal abuse, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and LSD, weapons possession, animal cruelty, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder and murder, Garcia said.
Had they made it onto shore without detection and met smugglers on land, the illegal immigrants would have gone to safe houses in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Smugglers would have kept them there until their relatives or friends paid up.
From Google News
Obama Backs Probe of Florida Teen's Death
President Responds, 'If I Had a Son, He'd Look Like Trayvon'; Republican Leadership Calls for a 'Thorough Investigation'
by LAURA MECKLER and ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama, speaking in unusually personal terms, weighed in on the recent killing of an unarmed black teenager, a rare moment of engagement by the president on a racially charged issue.
Thousands gathered in Washington D.C. to call for an arrest in the shooting death of a black Florida teenager. (Video: Reuters/Photo: AP)
Mr. Obama, speaking for the first time about the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, said he welcomed federal and state investigations into the shooting. Mr. Martin was shot last month in the Orlando, Fla., suburb of Sanford, by a neighborhood-watch volunteer.
"When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids," the president said Friday, responding to a question. "You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
The killing has sparked protests in Florida and elsewhere, in part because the volunteer, who has said he was acting in self-defense, hasn't been arrested. The teen wasn't armed.
"I can only imagine what these parents are going through," Mr. Obama said in the Rose Garden. "I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen."
On Friday, students at several South Florida high schools staged walkouts and appealed for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old man who shot the teenager. Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade posted a photo of himself wearing a hooded sweatshirt on his Twitter and Facebook pages—a reference to the fact that the victim was wearing a "hoodie" when he was killed.
Mr. Obama's comments on Friday propelled attention on the case, which had already grown to become a national issue.
After Mr. Obama's remarks, leading Republicans, including the party's presidential candidates, also spoke out about the killing. Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's top Republican, called the shooting "an incredible tragedy of huge proportions." GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney called for a thorough investigation and said flatly, "This shouldn't have happened."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, another presidential candidate, went so far as to say the police were wrong not to arrest the alleged shooter and that law enforcement had made "horrible decisions" in handling the case.
The commentary Friday came as a stark contrast to the backlash Mr. Obama faced in 2009 when he sparked controversy by talking about another racially charged police incident, saying that the police officer who mistakenly arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. had acted "stupidly."
Mr. Obama later backtracked and said his comments were poorly chosen. The incident culminated with a "beer summit" in the Rose Garden between the president and the parties involved.
The Martin case is under investigation by the Justice Department. On Thursday, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor to take over the investigation from the Seminole County state attorney, who previously announced a grand jury would be convened April 10. Mr. Scott also announced the formation of a task force to review Florida's 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows citizens to respond with deadly force in the case of an attack, and which local police relied upon in handling this case.
Efforts to reach Mr. Zimmerman for comment were unsuccessful. In a recent letter to the Orlando Sentinel, his father wrote that his son was Hispanic and had black family members and friends. He also said: "At no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin."
According to 911-call records, Mr. Zimmerman had been asked by a dispatcher if he was following the youth, and Mr. Zimmerman responded yes. The 911 dispatcher responded in return that Mr. Zimmerman didn't need to do that.
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the case, calling it a "local law enforcement matter." Friday, he said the president had prepared for the question in case he was asked in media interviews.
Mr. Obama often ignores shouted questions asked at unrelated announcements, but chose to respond this time. Exactly why he did, White House officials didn't make clear, beyond saying he was moved as a parent.
The criticism of Mr. Obama over the Gates incident was driven in part by outrage from police officers and supporters. James Preston, president of the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, a police union, remembers being upset with the president's comments at the time.
Friday, he said he found himself in rare agreement with Mr. Obama's take on the situation.
"There's a learning curve there and I think he's probably gotten some better advice about how to handle those situations," said Mr. Preston, a retired Tampa officer and a Republican.
Unlike in 2009, Mr. Obama didn't pass judgment on law-enforcement officials involved. And instead of talking about case details, he spoke about his feelings as a father, and implicitly, as an African-American.
The president has invoked his family before in discussing controversial issues, most recently when he explained why he called Sandra Fluke, a law student denigrated by radio personality Rush Limbaugh during a debate over contraception coverage.
He said he thought about how he would want his daughters to be treated if they spoke their minds in public.
Race is a touchier topic for the president. Mr. Obama has rarely been eager to identify himself as a black candidate or president. On rare occasions, he has addressed the matter—notably during the controversy over his former minister Rev. Jeremiah Wright—but usually casts the issue in a broader context of American history, said Mary Frances Berry, who served on the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights from 1980 to 2004.
"He wants to be careful so that people who are uncomfortable with the first African-American president don't believe he's only going to pay attention to African-Americans," she said.